Writing
Outline Your Novel Using a Floating Outline
August 17, 2017
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As I’ve written a few times before, I’m a pantser who struggles with outlining. I’ve tried using beats from the famous screenwriting novel “Save the Cat.” I tried Libbie Hawker’s method from her book “Take Off Your Pants.” I’ve written a detailed synopsis and tried to extract a story from it with no luck. Why, if I’m a pantser, don’t I just write like a pantser?

In the ebook self-publishing world, volume of output matters and is a great harbinger on your chance of success. To be as prolific as I plan to be–put out a new book every 3-4 months–I’m going to need to write a shit ton of books in a short amount of time, and when you write pantser style, the rewriting process can take up to three times as long as the original first draft. I have no time for that. So what have I settled upon as my outlining method of choice?

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

It’s something I stumbled upon while watching one of Brandon Sanderson’s lecture videos and it’s called a Floating Outline. I’m not sure if I understood his process one hundred percent correctly, but the takeaway was more than enough to get me started and put my own little twist on things. Who knows, maybe I got it exactly right and am doing it just like Brandon?

In the larger view of things, I adopted Brandon’s approach: he outlines his plot and story but he discovers his characters as he writes. So he’s kind of a mix between a plotter and a pantser. He plans out his story in detail and then he goes to work outlining using the Floating Outline approach. Basically, he has a notebook full of “awesome” scenarios or scenes that he wants to happen in his book. I have come to call them “Plot Awesomes” (as I think about it, I think Story Awesomes would be better). The idea is to write out an awesome scene you want to happen in your book, say, the two lovers finally share a kiss. So that would be the header of that particular Plot Awesome. Underneath that, you start adding bullet points in backward order that would lead to your awesome scene. Let’s take a look at an example:

A & B Finally Kiss

  • A saves B’s life
  • B tells A to get out of B’s life
  • A and B end up in same location
  • A …

Those are just some quick and dirty examples off the top of my head. I would finish that list and then move onto the next Plot Awesome. Usually I’ll have a minimum of 4 Awesomes I want to happen. One is usually romantic in nature, the other serves the over arching plot, and then the rest are things that round out the story. I will then go back and edit them to make them a bit less general and more specific. So at the end, the idea is you have an awesome climax scene and the pieces it will take to get there. As Brandon says, he outlines backward but writes forward.

Using Scrivener, I then start creating Chapter folders and inserting at least one bullet point (starting from the bottom up), sometimes more, in each chapter. What’s cool is that they can be combined so that you are advancing two or more different Awesome plot points in the same chapter without it feeling forced. I then cross out the bullet points as I use them and create another Chapter folder and use one or more bullet points, cross it off, repeat. By the end of the outlining process, I have my entire book outlined and the several different plot points/story lines meshed together naturally.

This was the process I used for creating the first draft of The Chronicles of Talam #1. I would say I followed my outline pretty rigidly until I got 25% into the book then I started to deviate as the story took off on ideas of its own. I still had the outline to use as a foundation but I would say that by the end of my first draft, I would say I stuck with 50% of my outline and the rest came about as I wrote. This process seemed comfortable to me and it allowed more of my creativity to come out during the writing process than if I just started out in full pantser mode.

Anyone else use a similar method to outlining their novels?

David

Software Writing
Using Tiddlywiki for World Building
August 9, 2017
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Scrivener is fantastic for outlining, planning and writing your novel or short story. However, I did discover while writing the first draft of my fantasy novella that all the names of places and characters got overwhelming. I needed something to tie it all together better, something interactive even, like a wiki.

Tiddlywiki

After a quick Google search, I came across a few articles talking about personal wikis and the one that appealed most to me was Tiddlywiki. It’s super simple and the entire program is written in a single HTML document. After downloading the “software,” the best browser to use with it is Firefox as there is a TiddlyFox plugin that works seamlessly with Tiddlywiki.

Once you load the file into your local browser, it’s easy to start adding items to your wiki. However, I do recommend watching a few short tutorial videos on YouTube from Francis Meetze that will make starting out even easier. To start, I entered place and character names that I had already created before I began writing into the wiki. Then, while writing my first draft and new places and characters came up, I added those to the wiki and linked them to each other via common characteristics such as place, race, etc.

During my first draft, I left the descriptions in each wiki as short and quick as possible, almost more like a reference than a detailed description. As I edit my first draft, I plan on filling in the details in each wiki so that when all is said and done, I have a thorough and interactive personal wiki of my fantasy world (once the series is complete, I can put the entire thing on this website as a reference). I anticipate it will come in handy even more during the writing and editing of subsequent books in the planned series.

Anyone else out there using Tiddlywiki for their world building?

David

Writing
Anxiety and Writing
August 2, 2017
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I think almost all writers experience writing anxiety as they face the blank page, but that’s not the kind of anxiety I’m talking about. I’m talking about ANXIETY, the not-quite panic attack, but still immobilizing feeling that takes over both mind and body. Triggered by some personal issues a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with Anxiety, which was a welcome diagnosis at the time, and I was able to cope with it through some lifestyle changes, therapy, and meditative techniques.

I have had a handle on it for a long time until the night before I was due to finish the first draft of my fantasy novella. I woke up in the middle of the night with the familiar panic attack symptoms. Fortunately, I was able to quell the attack before it became acute. But when I woke up in the morning, I had that undercurrent of nervousness that is hard to explain to anyone who has never experienced it before. It makes you want to just sit on the couch and drown out the world. When I got up to make breakfast, I even got the sour feeling in my cheeks like right before vomiting, but I didn’t feel nauseous. Basically, I was a mess.

The only thing that could have triggered it, in my opinion, was the impending completion of my first draft of my novella. I would have thought finishing the draft would evoke feelings of euphoria and excitement, not nervousness and a sense of dread. But I think it’s because I have been deriding myself for so long for starting and stopping so many things without finishing them that the fact that I was actually about to accomplish something I set out to do put my emotions in a spiritual clothing dryer.

It still doesn’t make sense to me, but all I know is, that as I sat down to finish those last 2,500 words, my anxiety level declined. And when I finished the first draft later that day, I felt much better. I did celebrate somewhat, but then that was quickly replaced by all these ideas that came flooding in for the rewrite. Such is the writer’s life. A work is never done until it’s out the door.

David

Writing
Back After an Absence
July 21, 2017
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As I mentioned in a previous post, I have the tendency to ebb and flow with my interests. Writing, photography, filmmaking, etc. The thing is, I know this about myself and it’s something that I can’t stand about myself. I guess the positives from it mean that I get to experience many different things at a pretty high level (as I always do a deep dive in my interests until I burn out). But all I’ve ever wanted to do was be an expert at something and spend years doing one thing really well–or at least strive to excel.

How many blogs in various genre’s have I started and stopped? How many domain names have I registered only to let lapse a year later? The interest in writing faded and photography came back full force this past spring, now I’m back into writing again. I had even let this domain expire. Luckily, I saved a backup of this blog otherwise I would be starting all over again. I just have to find a way to stick with things even when my heart isn’t in it. If I can just bridge the gaps between interest, and treat writing like a job, then all will be right with the world. At least my world.

That being said, I’m now part way through writing a fantasy novella. This is my fourth go around with this story and this world. This time, I just want to get the first draft done and then spend a good deal of time editing. Right now, the plan is to make it a five-part series, all Novellas. I have five POV characters in this first one, which is a lot for a Novella, but I’m looking at them more like serials or TV episodes. Not sure if it will work or not, but that’s the grand plan at the moment.

Here’s to writing!

David

Book Review
Review: The Rift Uprising
March 7, 2017
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The Rift Uprising
The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster

I think I had different expectations when I picked up this book. I wasn’t expecting a YA novel. Once I got over that realization, however, I thought the story and plot were good, but the character development needed a little work. The best part of the novel was the idea of a rift that goes to multiple different Earths with varying points in evolution and the multiple paths taken by the different versions. The least interesting part of the story, or rather, the part of the story that needed a little more work was with the romance between Ryn and Ezra. There was just something too easy and simple about their instant attraction to each other. I guess I was looking for a little more drama. The setup of the conflict between ARC and the Citadels was very compelling and worth reading the book. I think Ms. Foster has left herself a wonderful opening for the next installment and I look forward to seeing where she takes the story from here. This was a light, easy read and I recommend it.

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